German rescue ship takes 65 migrants aboard off Libya

Rome: A ship operated by a German aid organisation said on Friday it had rescued 65 people from a rubber dinghy off the Libyan coast, sparking concerns of a renewed dispute in Europe over migrants crossing the Mediterranean.
Sea-Eye, an organisation based in Regensburg in Bavaria, reported that its German-registered Alan Kurdi vessel had taken the 65 on board in international waters. The ship is named for a 3-year-old Syrian refugee who drowned off the Turkish coast in September 2015.
Sea-Eye said it had informed the relevant authorities in Libya, Italy, Malta and Germany about the rescue.
A government spokeswoman in Berlin said that as yet no request to take in the migrants had been received, while a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said a safe port had to be found and discussions held on how to divide up the migrants over EU member states.
Noting that Germany had taken in 227 people rescued from the sea last year, an Interior Ministry spokesman said: “This is a European task, and for that reason there must be several EU states that join in receiving them in the spirit of solidarity.”
The Sea-Eye announcement followed controversy over the Sea-Watch 3 rescue ship, which forced its way past Italian customs into Lampedusa port on Sunday with 40 rescued people on board.
Another rescue ship, a sailing boat called the Alex and operated by the Italian organisation Mediterranea, is currently awaiting permission to enter port with more than 50 migrants aboard.
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has insisted that it will not be allowed to enter an Italian port.
Malta has said it is prepared to take in those aboard, but only if Italy agrees to take 55 migrants currently in Malta.
Sea-Watch 3 spent more than two weeks at sea before its captain, Carola Rackete, defied the Italian authorities by entering Lampedusa. She was detained but later released.
On Friday, Rackete’s lawyer said that the captain was charging Salvini with defamation for his comments during the lengthy saga.
“We have prepared a legal complaint,” Alessandro Gamberini said. He also accused Salvini of inciting criminal conduct. “He is the one who is causing the waves of hatred,” Gamberini told Radio Cusano Campus.
On his Facebook page on Friday, Salvini termed Rackete “a rich and spoilt German communist.”
For her part, Rackete criticised the conduct of German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer. “I felt left to my own devices,” she told Der Spiegel news magazine.
The various authorities had “passed the problem round like a hot potato while we had 40 rescued people on board.” While various German cities had offered to take them in, this had failed because of Seehofer, “who had no wish to accept the cities’ offers,” Rackete said.
Referring to Salvini, she said she was surprised at “how personal it has become. His way of expressing himself shows no respect, and it’s inappropriate for a top politician.” Rackete is to appear in court in Italy on Tuesday to answer charges of assisting illegal immigration. Salvini has called for her to be deported. — dpa